Mineral deposits in Afghanistan
Rich mineral deposits in Afghanistan could create a new international interest in this region. The country is be lieved to have a long list of vast deposits of iron ore, barite, chromium, coal, magnesium, copper, gold, silver, lead, natural gas, oil, critical industrial metal like lithium and precious stones like sulfur, talc, zinc, mercury, emerald, lapis lazuli, red garnet, ruby etc.
Archeologists believe that Afghanistan is going to be the Saudi Arabia of lithium, which would turn a war-torn country into a wealthy nation. The following large mineral reserves can be found in different parts of the Afghanistan such as 1. Khanneshin carbonatite, 2. Balkhab copper, 3. Hajigak iron, 4. Takhar placer gold, 5. Anyak copper, 6. Badakshan load gold, 7. Takhar evaporate, 8. Kundalyan gold and copper, 9. Dusar-Shaida copper and tin, 10. Tourmaline tin, 11. Karnak-Kanjar mercury, 12. Nalbandon lead and zinc, 13. Panshir Valley emerald, 14. Katawaz gold, 15. Chagai Hills travertine, copper and gold, 16. Baghlan clay and gypsum, 17. Zarkashan gold and copper, 18. Dudkash industrial minerals, 19. Kunduz celestite, 20. Herat barite and limestone, 21. Bakhud fluorite, 22. Uruzgan tin and tungsten, 23. Ghunday Achin magnesite and talc, 24. Nuristan pegmatites, 25. Namaksar lithium salts, 26. Godzareh (Gaudi Zireh) lithium salts and 27. Dashti Nawar lithium salts.
Around 89 rich mineral fields are reported to be in Afghanistan and are valued to be from $ 1 trillion to $ 3 trillion, which can easily be exploited through proper infrastructure and utilized for the best future of the country.
According to reports, an estimated 1.8 billion barrels of oil has been discovered around Balkh and Jawzjan areas located in the north of Afghanistan and Darya-e-Amu is also believed to be another source of undiscovered natural gas, which covers an area of approximately 515,000 square kilometers.
Pentagon officials believe that Ghazni Province holds the world’s largest lithium deposits as large of those of Bolivia. President Hamid Karzai was very excited to have found the world’s largest lithium in his country and compared Afghanistan to be the lithium capital of the world whereas Saudi Arab is the oil capital of the world.
Moreover, the Hajigak iron ore mine two-billion estimated situated in Bamiyan province extends over 32 km up to 5 km in length, 380 meter wide, 550 meter beneath the earth, and an estimated value of nearly $421 billion would charm the world’s leading companies to invest in this project.
There are reports that around 12 copper mines exit in Afghanistan, however, the Aynak copper reserve, located in Logar province has been valued at $273 billion. China Metallurgical Group won the bidding of extraction rights of the Aynak mine in 2007 at $4.4 billion, could yield over 11 million tonnes of copper, says US Geological Survey and expects to increase government revenues and create jobs for Afghans. Another Chinese company named China’s National Petroleum was chosen a preferred bidder for an oil field in northern Afghanistan last September.
Badakhshan is also stated to be the home of the biggest gold mines in Afghanistan while Baghlan province is known for its rich mineral deposits, which could create lots of returns to alleviate poverty in Afghanistan.
The big firms from US, UK, France, Germany, Russia, India, China and nearly from the entire globe have fixed their eyes on the minerals of Afghanistan to get the contract, which would be the best opportunity to lift a generation out of poverty and wean the country off international aid.
There are rumours that the Hajigak iron ore is likely to be sold on to China or India, however, India seems to be the favourite to win the bid, which could bring worth up to $6 billion to the central government treasury, reliable source reveals. Let suppose, if India wins, it would be difficult to get the mineral out of Afghanistan through Pakistan.
The exploration is expected to start next year and development of the mine will take four to five years, report says. India has already invested $1.3 billion in transportation, healthcare, education, hydro-electricity and electrical transmission in Afghanistan and seems ready to invest more in Afghanistan being a strategic partner.
US mining expert believe that the possible income of the Aynak and Hajigak mines could bring to central Afghan treasury around half a billion dollar a year, which is a significant boom but not before 2016.
AFP reports that Afghanistan is planning to sell the rights of extraction for up to five mines every year before 2014 and Afghan government has shown commitment to raise around 7,000 extra forces for the protection of the mine sites, says Jawad, a spokesman of mine industry Afghan government.
Since the foreign troops are planning to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the West has promised not to leave Afghanistan alone and would keep supporting financially and militarily by establishing its basis around the country; however, Chinese unlike others are sure enough that the insurgency would not take over the country in the absence of large numbers of foreign troops, that’s why they seem confident and trying their best to go for nearly all bids of the mineral deposits.
It is believed that the discoveries of the huge mineral reserves would bring loads of foreign investment in various parts of Afghanistan and expect to create rampant job opportunities for the local people and the foreign money is also assumed to prove a powerful weapon to defeat the religious militant extremists plus to help extermination of opium poppy in Afghanistan.
However, there are some concerns that a massive influx of investment in Afghan minerals could augment rapid corruption in the present fragile political system of the country, which would further pollute the use of the power, like we see in Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Russia, and Sierra Leone as examples where the unexpected discovery of oil or minerals led to wild corruption, gang violence, military takeovers and worse.
In Afghanistan like countries, where the present presidential system doesn’t seem working properly in cohabiting the other ethnic minorities of the country, parliamentary style government is regarded the best form of the government, in which the central government is not suppose to interfere in the affairs of the provinces and the chances of the corruption, gang violence and military takeover will get reduced to the least.
The provinces themselves would hold responsible of their success and failure instead of pointing finger at the central government. The inhabitants of the concerned province would elect their leaders who they want the best for the interest of their province.
The provinces themselves would make their judgment and try their best to boost their economy in dealing with foreign investors in their respective areas in accordance with their unique set of requirement. The provincial government would have the final authority in dealing with bringing and investing money in their areas, instead of central government who generally work for the interest of the president not for the interest of the particular province.
India, Canada, Australia and UK are one of the best examples of parliamentary democratic set up in the world. Northern Front manifesto supports the parliamentary system of the government, which seems to be the best solution for multi-ethnic country like Afghanistan.
In my previous column published on this newspaper on 24th November, I pointed out that it is not possible to bring sustainable political stability in Afghanistan until and unless the international community under the auspices of United Nations address the ground stark ethno-religious-political realities.
The Present system doesn’t have the credence and the competence to bring a long-term political harmony in Afghanistan. As compared to presidential system, the parliamentary system has power more evenly spread out and decentralized, whereas in presidential system, the president enjoys the full power, while the members of the cabinet serve at the pleasure of the head of the country, which seems to be the most concerning in matters addressing to ground stark ethno-religious-political realities of Afghanistan.
In order to avoid further political confrontation and chaos in Afghanistan, all agreements relating to the mineral deposits should immediately be stopped at earliest possible and let the concerned provincial authority to decide about the future prospect of their mineral deposits for better political future of the country.
The parliamentary system seems to have the credence and the competence to address the concerns of ethnic minorities of the country and believed to bring the real sustainable political stability and long-lasting development to Afghanistan otherwise a prosperous dream would just remain a dream.